Many Birds on Shetland…

…are keenly interesting to behold, but few are as lovable as the Puffin! When first looking at these birds, they seem out of balance. Their colorful beaks would seem too heavy for the puffin’s body and their two bright red feet could act like kites, blowing these birds off course in the Atlantic winds.

puffin05

Belonging to the Auk species, the one found on Shetland is the Fratercula arctica type. In Latin, the word Fratercula basically means “little brother” and this is a most fitting description of the puffins found here. They are small for a comparable ocean-dwelling bird (about 32 cm in height). Their wings are adapted for diving and their tight, thick growth of feathers for warmth. Continue reading

Båtar, blommor och Croft House.

crofthouse04

Detta lilla hus är ett croft house, på vårt språk ungefär en torpar stuga. Detta  croft house är en del av Shetlands museum och jag har fått jobba där ett par dagar. Det ska visa livet i mitten av 1800-talet och när man kommer dit upphör verkligen tiden att existera.

crofthouse01

Stenväggarna är nästan halvmeter tjocka, stenplattor på golvet i ena rummet, jordgolv i det andra. Torvbrasa i öppen spis. Tre generationer trängdes i dessa två små rum och livet var  mycket hårt.  Men att sitta där som turistvärd är ett sant nöje och jag hoppas jag får rycka in fler gånger.

Torparna betalade sin hyra till godsägaren, the Laird, i bla fisk. Varje torparställe hade tillgång till en båt och på Unst, den nordligaste av öarna, finns ett fantastiskt båt museum, The Boat Haven.

boatmuseum01

Här finns båtar av allehanda olika slag, inte bara shetländska utan även färöiska och tror jag norska.

Sommaren är på god väg och det blommar överallt. Trädgårdarna fylls nu av både färg och form och ute på ängarna och hedarna lyser det gult, vitt och lite blått. Denna lilla viol är bara några cm hög och man får genast en känsla av fjäll när man ser den. Hedarna är ju mycket utsatta för väder och vind så växtligheten hukar på samma sätt som i Padjelanta.

viol01

P.S. Det finns många Croft house på Shetland, små vitmålade stenhus. Många är naturligtvis på väg tillbaka till naturen men många är bebodda.  Moderniserade och tillbyggda naturligtvis för att passa ett modernare liv.

Shetland Blackbirds…

…are fascinatingly stubborn. These last few days of brilliant sunny weather with only enough breeze to keep midges away, has caused some of the more “natural” residents to become stubbornly goal orientated with spring work. Apparently, these “locals” have acquired a disregard for building permission and even a nonchalance concerning other people’s property, when confronted with their hopes and plans to combat the shortage of available homes in Shetland.

jeppebirdnest01Photo: Blackbird nest building on Jeppe’s back wheel

What I am referring to, is the strong-willed native Blackbird (Turdus Merula) of Shetland. A young and romantic couple, who obviously have been struck with Cupid’s arrows, has now gone into their fourth day of stout determination to build a love nest on the back left wheel of Jeppe. Working the night shift, Jeppe has been kept awake and, I might add, has been deeply concerned that the nest building would gain an advanced state of actually developing small Blackbird eggs, with the obvious risk of mass murder of potential baby Blackbirds.

Even tempered as Jeppe is, he has patiently put up with this intrusion of his property. Unfortunately, in his eagerness to drive off on an adventure, the Blackbird’s love nest had to be removed each morning…only to be rebuilt again that evening by these annoying, but definitely wonderful, pair of squatters. What is Jeppe to do?

It has been decided that, during the evening, Jeppe will be parked in another place, away from the scene of previously destroyed bird’s nests, and hope that this will work. Shetland Blackbirds are certainly cute but, above all, bull-headed and stubborn!

Shetland Mines 01…

…Sometimes, the best place to be is in one ’s own thoughts, as long as you don’t get lost in them. Recently, I’ve contributed a small article on the mines of Shetland, and forgot that this website is a link for all who may want to know more. Thanks to a sharp Shetland Museum employee, I got the word that readers are waiting. A humble apology and many thanks for the wake-up signal!

Since this is only a blog, I don’t intend to follow research procedures in defense of content. This will come later in a peer-reviewed work. With small bits and pieces, my intentions are to excite readers about early Shetland mines, to learn a little about mining history and perhaps about their background; their own identity…their own heritage.

People ask me, “Why older mines?” I’m not really sure. I just want answers to my questions. For each question I answer, I get even more questions. And, so it keeps rolling on and on.

Shetland’s Mines
From the very first people arriving on the shores of Shetland, a need for the island’s rocks and minerals are apparent. As these people wandered over the hills and the land, they made observations of rocks and stones and skillfully learned where useful types could be found. When needed for any purpose, people went to these deposits and gathered what they needed. Rocks and stones were close by; at hand when needed.

One example of this is the need for shelter. The archeological excavation of Old Scatness is a great example of early people using Shetland rocks for dwellings. Another example is the need to keep warm. For whatever fuel was used, fires needed a spark. Shetland doesn’t have natural flint and ancient people learned that quartz could produce sparks and could start fires. And a third example is early Shetlanders needing household tools or implements for daily living.

catpundquarry02Photo: The ancient Catpund Quarry, Shetland. This is a scheduled area-please respect this.

The Catpund Quarry
Because of need and simple knowledge of rocks and geology, primitive Shetland people used what was available and knew where to find it. The Catpund Quarry is an example of where people over many years have exploited the serpentine, or soapstone, of Shetland to chisel out bowls, ladles, plates or decorative figurines for themselves or to barter and exchange with. Knowing that soapstone holds heat and is easily formed, it was a valuable commodity thousands of years ago.

At one time, this quarry was of interest for Robert Hunter Wingate Bruce up to 1924 and eventually for The Sumburgh Mining Co., apparently up to and around the early 1970’s. In accordance with the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act of 1979, the Catpund area was registered in the General Register of Sasines, counties of Orkney and Zetland October 28, 1988 (Ref. Historic Scotland) and was soon excavated afterward. (Uh oh! There I went and put in some researchy stuff! Sorry!)

Supposedly, there’s to be a book, or something, coming soon. With this, we will just have to wait and see. But, it is tempting to wonder just how many more of these ancient quarries can be found in Shetland and where?

For myself, I got an enormous thrill seeing this quarry for the first time. Having only seen mining remnants as early as the 17th century, Catpund gave the possibility of observing a quarry that is over 3000 years old and worked at different times; independent of each other.

Please give this place a visit or two. If traveling out of Lerwick, south on A970 and having passed through Cunningsburgh, estimate about 1 kilometer from the point of leaving Cunnigsburgh. On your right, you should see the “old” asphalted road. Park here and near the burn/bridge that can be found. Follow the burn immediately up the hill from your parked car, respecting the fencing and minding your step. About 250 meters, and along the burn, you should see a small fenced-off area. This is the Catpund Quarry. (Ordnance Survey Map 466- maps are fun) Clothes and shoes appropriate for the outdoors.

REMEMBER: This is a protected and scheduled area. Do Not Disturb…anything! Treat it like a crime scene. Much more must be learned from it. Just observe and enjoy.

For fun, ask yourselves these questions…

    How much of the stone has been removed out of the earth over the years?
    How big of an area all around was used?
    What tools did people use to chisel out bowls, plates etc.?
    How many unfinished implements can still be found waiting for its owner to return?
    What was the work like? Did they work in groups? Alone? Were children along?
    What have I learned from my visit? Did I enjoy it? Will I have use of this knowledge someday in the future?

Whew! Now, a couple of pictures from Catpund Quarry…for the less energetic!
catpundminevy05-copyPhoto: Panoramic view of Catpund Quarry area. In foreground dwellings possibly from Middle Ages
catpundquarry01Photo: Thousands of years ago, people chiseled out useful implements leaving shadows of these in the soapstone at Catpund Quarry